The Committee for Education Funding Applauds the President’s Budget for Investing in Education
Urges Congress to Replace Sequester Caps
(to download the PDF statement, click here)
February 12, 2015
The Committee for Education Funding (CEF), a coalition of 115 national education associations and institutions from preschool to postgraduate education, applauds President Obama’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 budget for prioritizing investing in education as a proven strategy to increase jobs and improve our nation’s economic growth and competitiveness. The budget proposes significant investments for all levels of education – early learning, K-12, and higher education.
Most importantly, the budget proposes to completely eliminate the harmful sequester cap for nondefense discretionary funding (NDD) in FY 2016. Doing so restores $37 billion for education and other important domestic programs including research. The budget also proposes to restore the sequester cuts in FY 2017 and provides partial restoration in FY 2018 through FY 2021 by replacing them with a balanced package of deficit reduction. Sequestration slashed education programs in FY 2013 by almost $2.5 billion and Head Start by $400 million. Research programs – such as those overseen by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation crucial to higher education, our nation’s innovation agenda, and support for graduate students – were cut by over $2 billion.
Based on the bipartisan Ryan-Murray budget deal of 2013, the FY 2014 Consolidated Appropriations Act was a positive step forward in undoing the majority of the sequester cuts in FY 2014. However, it only restored two-thirds of the cuts in the U.S. Department of Education, leaving many education programs frozen at their post-sequester levels. Due to the virtual freeze in the NDD cap in FY 2015, the most recent CRomnibus bill resulted in a net cut to the Department of Education, while freezing funding for Head Start.
Overall funding at the Department of Education (excluding Pell grants) is still below the FY 2008 level. Because the FY 2016 NDD cap is once again virtually the same as the FY 2015 cap, there is no room for increasing needed investments. Thus, the most important step Congress can take to help students, educators, parents, early education programs, schools, colleges, libraries and museums is to permanently eliminate the sequester cuts.
The budget proposes a $3.6 billion (+5.4 percent) increase for programs in the Department of Education. In addition, the budget proposes major new investments in education on the mandatory spending side for preschool, improving the preparation and quality of teachers and school leaders, and making community college free.
The budget also projects an increase in the Pell grant maximum award of $140 to $5,915. Several important tax provisions are proposed that would benefit higher education. These include a permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit, scheduled to expire at the end of 2017, and excluding from taxable income the portions of student loans forgiven under income-based repayment plans and all of Pell grants.
According to CEF President Noelle Ellerson, “While we are extremely pleased with the overall comprehensive package of education investments, we are concerned with proposed freezes for several education programs, including Striving Readers, Impact Aid overall funding, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, rural education, school counseling, magnet schools, adult education State grants, campus-based aid, GEAR UP, aid to Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other minority-serving institutions, and graduate education.” The budget also proposes the elimination of Impact Aid payments for federal property, the literacy initiative, and the Teacher Quality Partnership program in the Higher Education Act. CEF opposes these proposals.
CEF strongly supports the robust increases for Title I, Head Start and Preschool Development grants, and additional investments for IDEA, English Language Acquisition, STEM, safe and healthy students, Career and Technical Education State Grants, TRIO, educational research and data, and evidence-based practices, and the restoration of education technology grants.
CEF also applauds the budget’s support for college access though the permanent extension of the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the mandatory-funded investments in early childhood education, including $75 billion for Preschool for All and an expansion of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
CEF Executive Director Joel Packer noted, “State and local budget cuts have resulted in the loss of 324,000 public school employees’ jobs since the start of the recession, and public school revenue declined in FY 2012 for the first time since 1977. At least 30 States are providing less funding per student for the 2014-15 school year than before the recession, 46 States are spending less per student in public higher education than in 2008, and overall State support per student for higher education is at its lowest level in 25 years. That’s why the investments proposed by the president are more important than ever.”
“We look forward to working with the Administration and Congress to obtain the increases in education funding proposed by the president and permanently replace the sequester in order to provide needed investments,” said Ellerson. “The president’s budget moves our country forward through investments that grow our economy and help students get the skills they need for jobs of the future, while sequestration continues to hold us back.”